The new boutique near the corner of 45th and France is called Serge + Jane, but it very well could have been named Casey + Jamie.
With more than 30 years of retail experience between them from working at Target’s headquarters, Casey and Jamie Carl have put a lot of the lessons they have learned about retail — and a lot of themselves — into the Edina shop they opened late last year in their neighborhood.
As he walked around the store on a recent day, Casey Carl, Target’s former chief innovation and strategy officer, had a story to share or a recommendation about nearly every item, from the casual lifestyle brand Sol Angeles he has worn for years to an infused alcohol kit that he was thrilled to discover after several failed attempts of trying to do it on his own. This kit, as he said he can personally attest to, makes the process “idiotproof.”
“I bought my first Belstaff probably 15 years ago,” he said of the heritage brand of leather jackets hanging on a rack. “So we can speak to things that we sell very authentically. [Serge + Jane] has got our personality. It very much reflects who we are as people. It’s fun. It’s edgy. It pushes the boundaries a bit.”
In addition to men’s and women’s apparel, Serge + Jane sells everything from new and used vinyl (some from his personal collection of more than 9,000 records), CBD bath and beauty products, crafts and food items from local makers, and an eclectic mix of candles, jewelry and other gifting items such as scrunchies made by one of its store employees.
And, yes, it looks a lot like the Carls’ personal closets.
“I had a friend stop in the first week. She was like, ‘Do you own one of everything in here? This looks so much like you,’ ” Jamie Carl said. “It definitely has a West Coast vibe. That is very much our personal style.”
But at the same time, it also has a local twist. For example, they sell items from “North Coast Soul,” their own Minnesota-themed brand they launched with coffee mugs and sweatshirts. One of the line’s newest offerings just arrived at the store the other day: a shirt that says “Keep Morningside Weird,” a reference to the township that once existed where the store sits before it became part of the city of Edina.
So then, who are Serge and Jane? The Carls don’t expect everybody to get the reference. But a giant picture of the French couple, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, adorns a back wall of the 1,200-square-foot store. The duo made waves in the 1960s and ’70s with provocative music banned by radio stations in parts of Europe.
“We just really like the story of them, because they were both famous and successful in their own right,” Casey Carl said. “But they did something really cool and creative and powerful together.”
The Carls also had their own successful careers at Target for many years. In fact, they met on their first day of business analyst training at Target.
“She sat right in front of me,” he said. “We didn’t actually talk for the first year. But I knew who she was.”
She went on to have a 14-year career at Target, starting as a buyer of stationery and home goods, followed by a stint in marketing and as organizer of the company’s internal events. She left nearly a decade ago to focus on raising their two sons and later cofounded Equation, a boutique at 50th and France, with which she is no longer involved.
He also began at Target as a buyer, moving his way up to senior roles in merchandising and then to president of Target.com. His final position was in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s C-Suite as its strategy chief. He left in 2017 when Target shut down many of its innovation projects to refocus on its core business.
After Target, Carl launched his own consulting and investing company, North Coast Ventures, through which he has invested his own capital into about a dozen early-stage companies in the consumer space. He also travels frequently to advise both small and large companies about leadership, growth and innovation.
“It remains to be seen what next challenge I’ll tackle,” he said, noting that he would like to run his own company at some point. “But we got a lot accomplished last year and are proud to get this up and running.”
The store had been in the works for nearly three years, hitting a lot of bumps along the way. It was delayed for months as the city went through a planning process for 50th & France. They also had to get the property rezoned and constructed the building, adding things they didn’t necessarily anticipate at first, such as an elevator.
They hustled to open it the week before Thanksgiving with construction still going on around the building and in the parking lot.
“So people were stumbling in, saying, ‘Are you open?’ ” Jamie Carl said. “We were like, ‘Yes. We’re so sorry for the scaffolding.’ ”
They are still working through some other issues, such as getting the store on Google Maps.
In addition to the store, they also have a second-floor space where they have had events such as creating vision boards and holiday fairs. They are considering making it into a shared working space for executives who might want a place to meet with their clients. And there’s also an open-air rooftop. It’s currently covered in snow, but when it melts, they hope to host yoga classes, fashion shows and brand launch parties up there.
Given their retail background, the Carls know how important it is to have those kinds of events and experiences to help drive traffic to the store and to create deeper connections with the community. They also have hosted smaller affairs such as samplings of infused alcohol and pet photos with Santa. And, of course, they’re constantly bringing in new inventory.
“Keep it fresh. Keep it experiential,” he said. “That’s really important. You’ve got to create compelling reasons for them to come again and again and again.”
Especially when people can just as easily shop from their phones.
Casey Carl has spent a lot of his career looking at how online shopping is disrupting brick and mortar. But when done right, he said he’s still “bullish on the physical experience.”
A store website, though, is also in the works, as would be expected. They hope to launch it in the coming months.